TO QUOTE THE GOAT, “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”!
Those were the first words out of Tom Brady’s mouth when he got to the podium for his post-game press conference after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke their losing streak and took back first place in the NFC South with a 16-13 come from behind win against their nemisis the LA Rams on Sunday. And it was awesome!
Ugly, but awesome.
Both teams came into this game struggling to find some offense, but neither of them did so in this game either. The Rams and Bucs both sputtered on offense all afternoon trading punts for most of this game. It was quite a boring game for the first 58 minutes if you like offense. If you’re more of a defensive and special teams fan, then this was your game. So here’s my GOOD, BAD & UGLY from the Bucs long awaited win over the Rams on Sunday.
The Final Drive
Just :44 seconds left and no timeouts. Down by four with 60-yards to go. That’s just how Tom Brady likes it. He’s been in this situation so many times before. The first play was a pass down the seam to Cade Otton for 28-yards and a first down. Hurry down and spike the ball with :28 seconds left and the ball on the Rams 32-yard line. Then it was Brady to Fournette for 4-yards. Brady to Miller for 14-yards and a first down with :19 seconds left. Brady to Miller again for 7-yards with :16 seconds left. Then came the defensive pass interference on Mike Evans in the endzone giving them the ball on the 1-yard line with :13 seconds left. And the final play, Brady to Otton in the flat for the walk-in touchdown and the lead with :09 seconds remaining. It was Brady’s 43rd fourth quarter comeback, tying him with Peyton Manning for most all-time. And it was his 55th game-winning drive, now the most in NFL history.
Even though they failed to produce a turnover for the fifth straight game for the first time in franchise history, the Bucs defense played extremely well, considering they were missing two of their best players in Shaq Barrett and Antoine Winfield Jr. They held the Rams to just 9 first downs for the entire game, the fewest they’ve allowed since 2008 and the second fewest allowed by any team this season. It was also the lowest total by the Rams offense in 6 seasons under Sean McVay. They only allowed the Rams to convert just 4 of 15 third downs and forced 9 punts.
The Rams offense had 13 possessions and the Bucs forced a three-and-out on nine of them. They only had one first down in their final six drives and in the 4th quarter they held them to just 10 plays for 4-yards and no first downs. The Rams finished with just 206 total yards, the second fewest since McVay took over as head coach.
The Special Teams
These guys had quite a night. Jaelon Darden had 8 punt returns for 83 yards averaging more than 10-yards per return, including returns of 15 and 17 yards. He now leads the NFL in punt return yards (286) and punt returns (27) and ranks 7th in return average with 10.6 yards per attempt.
Ryan Succop had a good night as well finishing 3 of 4 on his field goals (one was blocked) and making his only extra point attempt. He is now 22 of 24 this season, leading the league in field goals made and attempted and he’s 3rd in the league in scoring with 76 points.
The rookie punter Jake Camarda had himself a career night with 6 punts averaging 59.5 yards per attempt, which ties the highest average ever in an NFL game. He also kicked a 74-yarder, which ties for the longest in franchise history set back in 1997. Oh and he also had 2 tackles on special teams.
Once again, the offensive playcalling was predictable and unimaginative for most of this game all the way up until that final drive. Whether it’s Byron Leftwich calling bad plays or Tom Brady not calling audibles when he doesn’t like the defense, something has to change with these guys. They have been historically bad this season. They have THE worst run game in NFL history. Literally. They have been terrible on third down. In fact, on 3rd & 7 or longer, they’re converting just about 10% of the time. That’s the lowest conversion rate for any team in the NFL since at least 1994. Even the 2008 Raiders with JaMarcus Russell converted 11.4% of those, which is the next closest. The Bucs offense was 9 of 21 on third down in this game. That’s pretty bad.
Tom Brady has struggled enough this season without adding drops by his receivers into the equation. The Bucs had about 7 dropped catchable balls in this game, including at least three by Mike Evans and one in the endzone for a touchdown by Scotty Miller late in the 4th quarter. I’m sorry, but dropped balls at this level is just unacceptable and inexcusable.
The Kupp Runneth Over
Even though the Bucs defense played an outstanding game overall, they did allow Cooper Kupp to get free on a few plays. However, those few plays resulted in him finishing with 8 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown while averaging nearly 16 yards per catch. For whatever reason, he just has his way with the Bucs secondary every time he lines up against them. Hopefully one day, they’ll figure out how to slow that dude down.
Both offenses in this game were just downright offensive. The Bucs scored just 16 points. The Rams scored just 13 points. The Bucs had just 323 total yards. The Rams had just 206 total yards. The Bucs had just 272 passing yards. The Rams had just 138 passing yards. The Bucs rushed for only 51 yards. The Rams rushed for just 68 yards. The Bucs were 9 of 21 on 3rd down. The Rams were 4 of 15 on 3rd down. The Bucs punted 6 times. The Rams punted 9 times. The two teams combined for 14 three & outs in this game. That’s insane!
BIG BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : P Jake Camarda
Had he not dropped that go ahead touchdown late in the game, I would’ve considered wide receiver Scotty Miller for this one. He finished with 7 catches (6 in the final 6 min) for 53 yards and had two big catches on that final drive.
Instead, I’m going with the guy who got the game ball Sunday in Camarda. I already talked about him earlier, but what he did in this game deserves all the recognition it can get. He finished this game with 6 punts and averaged 59.5 yards per attempt, which ties the NFL record for a single game. He also tied a franchise record with a 74-yard punt, which was set back in 1997 and had 2 tackles on special teams.
DEFENSE : DT Vita Vea
With Akiem Hicks finally back in the lineup commanding double teams, Vita Vea was wreaking havoc in the Rams backfield all game. He finished with 3 tackles and 2 sacks, giving him a team-high 6.5 sacks this season. That’s a career high and matches his total for his last two full seasons combined.
BAD BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : LT Donovan Smith
Smith did not have a good day at all. When he wasn’t committing holding penalties (two in the game for 20 yards that cost them a 6-yard gain and a 9-yard gain), he was getting beat like a rented mule by anyone who lined up in front of him. He’s had a decent season so far, but this just wasn’t his game.
DEFENSE : OLB Anthony Nelson
When your job is to “replace” Shaq Barrett, you’re expected to play to a certain standard. Nelson did not answer the call finishing with zero solo tackles, just 2 assists and no sacks. In fact, the Bucs started rotating Genard Avery in there in his place and he ended up with a sack in this game. I thought Nelson would step up and shine when given this opportunity, but he didn’t rise to the occasion.
THE WRAP UP
Ok listen, I’m as happy as anyone that the Bucs beat the Rams on Sunday, but let’s put a little perspective on this one before we get too optimistic. Los Angeles is not playing very good football. They haven’t been all season. Then again, neither have the Bucs. A win is a win and I’ll take all I can get at this point, especially against the Rams. But I’m not buying Super Bowl tickets just yet. Keep in mind that the Bucs had to score a touchdown with :09 seconds left to take the lead and win this game against a team that now has a 3-5 record. I still want to see more consistency on defense. I still want to see more production on offense. I want to see a quality win over a quality team. This Sunday could tell us a lot about where this team is and where they could be going for the rest of this season.
THE LOOK AHEAD
Speaking of Sunday, the Bucs have flown across the pond to Munich, Germany to face the 6-3 Seattle Seahawks. Even though Seattle has been a bit of a surprise success story so far this season, they are playing good football. In the last month or so, they have quality wins over the 5-3 Chargers, the 6-2 Giants and they’ve beaten the Cardinals twice. Their offense is currently 11th in the league averaging 360 total yards and 27 points per game. And their defense is ranked 24th allowing 365 total yards and 24 points per game.
Since replacing Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback, Geno Smith has had a career resurgence completing 73% of his passes for 2,199 yards, 15 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. His two leading receivers are Tyler Lockett with 51 catches for 598 yards and 4 touchdowns and DK Metcalf with 42 catches for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns. But their real strength is in their run game where they have six different players averaging more than 4.8 yards per carry. Their leading rusher, rookie Kenneth Walker III, has 570 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
This is not going to be the “easy win” we all thought it would be when the schedule came out. It’s going to be a dogfight. The Bucs will need to play physical on defense to stop the run and the offense has got to put some points on the board. Hopefully, that win against the Rams helped breath some life back into this team and propels them forward for the rest of this season. We’ll find out bright and early Sunday morning!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!